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Real-Time Enterprise Data Integration for HIPAA Compliance

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
October 2004 Issue
  By Val Taylor
Ascential Software (Acquired by IBM in 2005)
Review of: Ascential DataStage TX from Ascential Software (Acquired by IBM in 2005)

REVIEWER: Val Taylor, IS development supervisor for The ODS Companies.

BACKGROUND: The ODS Companies (ODS) is a multifaceted organization that provides dental, medical and professional healthcare insurance products, along with a variety of business services including dental practice management software and benefits administration. Founded in 1955, ODS is Oregon's leading dental insurer and a member of the Delta Dental Plan Association.

PLATFORMS: ODS is translating data between several different back-end systems running on IBM AIX 5.2 UNIX and front-end systems running on a Windows 2000 Server platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: ODS is using Ascential DataStage TX, a component of the Ascential Enterprise Integration Suite, to meet HIPAA compliance regulations, rapidly respond to customer requests and securely manage sensitive patient data. Only Ascential Software's solutions provide the scalability, interoperability and flexibility that we need to optimize the value of corporate data, which directly impacts our ability to serve our customers. Ascential Software functionality helps us meet stringent federal regulations and aggressive customer service goals.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our number-one objective was to translate and automate the flow of 12 different HIPAA EDI transactions from a Windows 2000 Server platform to our mainframe and relational database applications. We use the Ascential DataStage TX's Integration Flow designer and Event Server to trigger on-demand translations on a 7x24 hour schedule. The rapid development capability of the software and the HIPAA specific tools supplied by Ascential Software have put us at the leading edge in this area. Secondly, we have a real-time translation objective where we are receiving XML transactions through a virtual private network (VPN) with HTTP protocol. We are using Java Server Pages to hand off the XML data and execute the Ascential DataStage TX translation, and then pass the information request to our mainframe. The mainframe returns the response to the Java Server Page, which then hands that response to and executes Ascential DataStage TX. The response is translated back into XML and handed back to the VPN while the end user waits only a few seconds for a response. The third objective is to keep our bank EFT information secure. To accomplish this, we run DataStage TX on a UNIX server where we can take more advantage of access control.

STRENGTHS: First, the drag-and-drop mapping, accompanied by complex rules configuration, enables us to rapidly develop data translations for a multitude of platforms ­ saving time and money, and freeing my team for other jobs. Second, the product's event driven routing helps us provide a significantly faster turnaround time for our customer requests.

WEAKNESSES: The adapters, such as batch, FTP and e-mail, are fairly difficult to configure for each specific environment. However, once they are configured and running, the adapters are extremely reliable.

SELECTION CRITERIA: When we selected Ascential DataStage TX, we were looking for a transformation and integration solution that could help us become HIPAA compliant in a very short time frame. We needed rapid development tools that could support event-driven parsing, validation and transformation of complex hierarchical data formats. Ascential DataStage TX met all these needs. As a healthcare insurance payer, we were interested in Ascential Software's most distinguishable asset - the 20 years of experience in EDI for healthcare and the constant involvement with the X12 and WEDI standards committees.

DELIVERABLES: Ascential DataStage TX has put us in the forefront as an insurance payer capable of integrating HIPAA transactions - well ahead of our competitors. In less than three months, we had a VPN connection with Delta Dental. Delta Dental was taking claim status requests from the Web, converting the requests to a HIPAA transaction with an XML wrapper, sending it to ODS by HTTP protocol and receiving our response back to their Web site real time.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Ascential Software provides world-class software support. One representative works with us through all issues until the upgrade is ready to go live. It is rare for us to have a production problem related to the software, but when that does happen, Ascential works quickly to resolve it.

DOCUMENTATION: The product comes with a series of PDF files. This year, my team will also take advantage of the recently launched the Ascential Developer Net, which has greatly improved the ability for Ascential DataStage TX users to collaborate with other users around the world.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Integration and Real-Time Enterprise.

Val Taylor, IS development supervisor for The ODS Companies.

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